Classic Bike Guide

REMEMBERING Percy

THE IMPACT OF THE ROYAL CORPS OF Signals Motorcycle White Helmets Display Team on British motorcycle competition in the 1950s can’t be overstated.

Many members of the team became highly competitive on track, on trials courses and on scrambles mud. But not many had the impact on the world of motorcycling of Percy Tait.

Percy was born on October 9, 1929 within a stone’s throw of what would become the site of Triumph’s Meriden factory. He started racing at the age of 18 in 1947 on a 350 Triumph, then progressed through the racing ranks on borrowed Gold Stars, KTT Velocettes, Manx Nortons and AJS 7Rs. Along with most young British men in the 1940s and 50s, Percy found his life and ambitions put on hold by National Service and joined the Army. Fortunately for Percy, and for the motorcycle industry, his service took place before the outbreak of the Korean War, and even more fortuitously his sergeant had heard about his racing exploits, so Percy spent a year of his 18-month military service riding with the display team.

The team was a great success as an Army recruiting tool and as publicity for Triumph, training Percy and hundreds of others in the gentle art of jumping a Meriden twin through blazing hoops, over fences or carrying an entire squad on a single machine.

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